Local Secrets: Costa Smeralda (10 Insider Tips from Greta’s Travels)

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Aerial shot of Costa Smeralda coastline

Want to know the best tips for exploring Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda? What better way to find out than to ask a local.

We catch up with Greta Omoboni, the travel blogger behind Greta’s Travels, for the lowdown on the coastal area of Sardinia known as the Costa Smeralda. Greta spends every summer in Sardinia, much of it on sailing boats (can we be friends?). The Costa Smeralda is popular Italy’s rich and famous for a reason – just look at the colour of that water!

Read on to discover a magical region of myrtle, crystal clear seas and pastel pink sunsets . . .

Greta looking out over boats anchored in a bay on the Costa Smeralda


Ciao Greta – tell us about where you live?

That’s a simple question with a complicated answer! For 4/5 months in summer I work as a skipper on a sailing boat for the season and live in Sardinia, but when the summer ends I travel and don’t have a fixed base.

I lived in London for 6 years, so spend a lot of time there in winter visiting friends, but I also spend a lot of time in Milan, my hometown, visiting family. So you could say that when I’m not travelling you can find me in Sardinia, Milan or London, depending on the time of year!

What inspired you to start a blog, and what will readers find there?

I have always loved travelling and documenting my trips through photos and videos. The idea for a travel blog was born while I was working 9-5 in a corporate office in London. I used to follow other travel bloggers and content creators online and after watching some interviews of how they used to be carpet cleaners, accountants, dentists or any kind of unrelated jobs before becoming bloggers I realised it was a job that with the right commitment and passion anyone could do.

I started sharing my content and adventures in the hope that others could find them useful in planning their own trips and inspiring them to add a new destination to their travel bucket list.

I don’t have a  ‘niche’ per se like a lot of other bloggers do, but I generally focus on outdoors and adventure travel. I write a lot about active activities that you can do like travelling, ranging from hiking, scuba diving, safaris, surfing, snorkelling and generally exploring the great outdoors.

I also write about city breaks since those were the main types of trips I could do while working 9-5, but without focusing too much on culture or historical travel as that is not my main focus while on the road.

On my site, readers will find detailed day-by-day itineraries, top 10 bucket lists, guides on where to stay, reviews on food tours and much more to help them plan their trip to a specific destination.

Boats anchored in blue waters off the Sardinian coast

So I’m visiting Palau for the day, where do we go for food?

If you were only visiting Palau for a day I wouldn’t waste time closing myself up indoors in a restaurant, head to the beach instead!

Italians aren’t huge on brunch, so you would find it very hard to find those perfect brunch smoothie bowls or avocado on toast, especially in a small town like Palau. You can have good coffee and pastries for breakfast at Delizie Napoletane, a coffee shop from Naples on the main street of Palau.

What do you love about Palau/the Costa Smeralda? What makes it unique?

The thing I love the most and which I think makes it unique is the natural beauty of Sardinia and the crystal clear turquoise water. You see a lot of photos online of white sand beaches with clear water in the Caribbean, Tahiti or the Maldives, but I think Sardinia is the only place close to home (for Europeans anyway, sorry American/  Australian readers) where you can see such beautiful beaches without breaking the bank or flying for hours.

I also like that it’s a very wild island. Unlike other beach destinations like Greece or Spain, which also have beautiful clear water, and are used to mass tourism, the beaches of Sardinia are still mostly untouched.

Yes, they will get busy in summer, but you won’t find comforts and services like beach beds, umbrellas, toilets or beach bars as you would in other beach destinations (at the islands of the Maddalena Archipelago anyway, some of the bigger beaches closer to Costa Smeralda will have some services). While that may seem uncomfortable to some, I personally find it adds to the unique beauty of the place.

What frustrates you about the Costa Smeralda?

How slow the locals are. I’m originally from Milan and I’ve lived in London, two very fast paced and frenetic cities. I often find myself restless while I wait for someone to swipe my shop at the cashier, prepare my cocktail at the bar, serve me food at a restaurant and so on. If you’re on holiday you might not even notice it and just enjoy the chill island lifestyle. To someone who spends 4/5 months a year there and is used to Milanese and Londoner efficiency, it can become quite frustrating.

What should everyone do at least once in the Costa Smeralda?

Try sailing, wind-surfing or kite-surfing. Costa Smeralda is a very windy destination, which makes it extremely popular for these kinds of water sports. Most of the big beaches will have a sailing, windsurf or kitesurf school where you can take classes.

If you want to make the most of it head to Porto Pollo, a short peninsula where regardless of the wind there will always be the conditions for sailing on either one side or the other of the peninsula. It’s also a worldwide famous spot where they do windsurfing world cups.

What do you miss most about Sardinia when you’re not there?

The beaches and my friends! I’m spoilt when it comes to beaches, wherever I travel to I always compare it to the crystal clear water I’m used to and beaches around the world never seem good enough.

Crystal clear turquoise waters of the Costa Smeralda

The best things to eat in Palau are . . .

Pecorino cheese and salami as a starter, Sardinian sausage gnocchetti as a first dish, and
roasted baby pig as a second dish. Add a typical seadas; a fried cheese and honey pastry
as dessert, and you’ve got a traditional Sardinian meal!

Surprisingly enough the typical Sardinian cuisine is meat based, not fish based as you’d expect of an island. This because historically Sardinian people used to fear the sea and everything that came from it, since invaders from Corsica or Italy came from there, so they used to escape inland and live off what the land gave them, not the sea.

A cool fact/story about the Costa Smeralda is . . .

As I’ve mentioned before Sardinian people originally preferred spending their time and growing their families inland, not on the coast. So when the parents of large families used to split their land amongst their children they would always give their sons the more valuable land inland, and give the women the land along the coast that was deemed worthless. Fast forward to the 1960s when the first tourists started arriving to Sardinia for the beaches and all of a sudden the women with the ‘bad’ land became rich selling land and houses to tourists and foreigners.

The best view of the Costa Smeralda is from . . .

From under the belly of the bear in Capo D’Orso. Capo D’Orso is the symbol of Palau and a huge rock shaped bear perched on top of a hill that overlooks Palau and the islands. To reach the bear you have to drive up the hill (or you can walk if you’re feeling very athletic), then park and walk for about 15 minutes along a rocky path (access to this part of the path is 2 EUR each – if you visit super early in the morning before the lady at the kiosk has arrived or out of season when there is no one there you can just jump over the fence). Up close it’s hard to see the bear in the rock formation, but you will get the most stunning view over the Archipelago, made all the cooler by the natural rock framing around it.

The best thing to drink in Palau is . . .

Mirto! Mirto is the traditional Sardinian liqueur made by myrtle berries, it’s very sweet and resembles a bit limoncello. If like me you’re not a fan of straight spirits, go to Rosso & Bianco, a trendy wine bar in Palau, and ask for a ‘moirto’: a mojito but with an added touch of myrtle.

Otherwise, the typical Sardinian wines are Cannonau for red wine and Vermentino for
white wine.

The best gelato in Palau is . . .

The one from ‘Gelateria dell’Angolo’. There are only four artisanal gelato shops in Palau so don’t pick the wrong one. It’s located on the corner of the two main streets of Palau (hence the name, ‘angolo‘ means corner in Italian) and they make one of the best gelatos I have ever had (and I’m Italian, I’ve had a lot of gelatos to compare it to)! You can get a cup or cone with two flavours for 2 EUR.

Greta looking out on Sardinian sunset

The perfect place to watch the sunset in the Costa Smeralda is . . .

Any of the beaches offer stunning sunset spots! Just make sure to pick a west-facing beach and you’ll be sure to enjoy a good sunset.

Some of the best ones in my opinion are; Porto Pollo since there are no houses to obstruct the sunset and Porto Faro since even if the beach will be in the shade early as the sun goes down they turn on the lighthouse and the colourful houses turn the most beautiful pastel pink.

You can also visit the Belvedere, the viewpoint over Palau and the Archipelago of Maddalena to get a pretty awesome view of the sunset over the coastline and surrounding islands. Even better if you can catch the sunset from a boat, watching the sun disappear below the waves as you sail is a truly magical experience!

If there’s one thing in the Costa Smeralda it’s worth taking a tour for, it’s . . . 

The boat cruise to the islands of the Archipelago of Maddalena. This is a group of islands
where the two biggest islands (Maddalena and Caprera) are reachable by ferry, however the other islands (Spargi, Budelli, Santa Maria and Razzoli) are completely uninhabited so the only way to reach them is to either rent a boat or go on a tour. I personally recommend going on a tour, since as I mentioned Sardinia can be a very windy destination, and unless you know the area and how different winds affect different beaches if you rent a boat and go alone you might end up in the wrong beach for the wind that day.

The boat tours usually last all day (from 10:30AM to 17:30PM), they include lunch and take you to the best beaches.

Boat tour prices depend on the type of boat you choose. In peak summer they range from 60 EUR for the large boats that carry 150+ people to 120 EUR for smaller sailing boats with around 10-20 people.

The best time of year to visit the Costa Smeralda is . . .

The best months to visit in my opinion are June and September. In peak summer (July and August) there are way too many people around and all the prices increase massively.
Depending on the years it can also get extremely hot. June and September instead are just around the busy summer season, meaning the weather is still pleasant and there are services available but without the summer crowds and prices.

My personal favourite is June since even if the seawater is still a bit cold the days are long and the sun sets very late. I wouldn’t recommend coming out of season since even if the weather might still be pleasant you will find most of the services are shut.

Sunset at Porto Faro, Sardinia

Thanks to Greta for sharing her side of the Costa Smeralda. If you love colourful travel and the great outdoors (especially watersports) you should definitely check out Greta’s Travels for a dose of inspiration.

You can also follow along with her adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

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Turquoise Sardinian seas with text overlay '10 Local Secrets - Costa Smeralda'

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